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Hawaiʻi Sea Turtles Are Amazing—from Afar

June 02, 2022

This nesting season, remember to view sea turtles respectfully. How? We’ve got some ideas for you. 

Two people using their arms to connect and make a heart shape afar from a sea turtle on the beach. Show your love of turtles with this turtle love photo opportunity. Credit: NOAA Fisheries

What lives in Hawaiʻi, has a shell, and can fit in your heart and the palm of your hand?

Well, there are a lot of things if you’re thinking literally—ʻopihi, ghost crabs, and oysters to name a few. But no, we’re talking about the islands’ amazing-from-afar sea turtles!

Across the Hawaiian archipelago, it’s officially sea turtle nesting season—running from mid-April to September, sometimes extending into December.

Hand shake afar from a sea turtle underwater to show distance.
Enjoy sea turtles from afar with a shaka! You’re far enough away if the turtle’s entire body (viewed from the side) fits between your fingers. Credit: NOAA Fisheries

The majority of honu (green sea turtles) travel to the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument to lay their eggs, but some can be seen using beaches within the main Hawaiian Islands to nest. Honu‘ea (hawksbill sea turtles) nest primarily on the islands of Hawaiʻi, Maui, and Moloka‘i. Though rare, a few olive ridley nests have also been found on our islands. Honu of all sizes also come ashore to rest (bask) in the Hawaiian archipelago. Basking turtles usually hang out on the sand close to the water’s edge. Female turtles typically nest at night near or under coastal vegetation well above the high tide line.

NOAA Fisheries asks you to practice responsible wildlife viewing when taking in the awe of our local sea turtles. Respectful people don’t get closer than 10 feet, while still getting great photos. Here’s how.

Do sea turtles have a special place in your heart? Show it off with this photo op: have two people stand in front of the camera and create a heart shape with their arms and hands. The couple is the perfect distance away from the turtle behind them if the turtle fits well within the heart. 

Another option: hold the beauty of Hawaiian honu in your hand. Simply position one or both of your hands in front of the camera lens, palm facing up if you're far enough away. Viewed through the camera, the turtle should fit completely in your palm. Don’t forget to include the sand, surf, and mountains to really set the majestic Hawaiʻi scene.

Sea turtle in the background in the sand; raised hand palm pretending to hold a turtle from afar.
Display the majesty of Hawaiʻi, turtle and all, with this turtle exhibition photo opportunity. Credit: Levon Basso

Let's see if we can get these types of images and actions to go viral! Share your fun creations on social media, using the hashtag #ShowOffYour10, and let the world know how truly amazing sea turtles are from afar! 

Last updated by Pacific Islands Regional Office on June 17, 2022